Behind Target and Wieden + Kennedy's Suprise Split

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That sound you heard Friday night was Madison Avenue licking its collective chops. In a stunning split, Target dropped longtime agency Wieden & Kennedy, leaving the retailer's marketing strategy, and potentially millions of dollars in new business, up for grabs.

The breakup was revealed exclusively to Ad Age and came as a surprise to adland, given the popularity of Wieden's work and a partnership that grew stronger in recent years. In 2009, Wieden, which had been on Target's roster for years, got the ultimate vote of confidence in becoming the retailer's first lead agency without a review. The move was made at the direction of former chief marketing officer Michael Francis. Target has been without a CMO since he decamped for JC Penney in October.

Mr. Francis told Ad Age in 2010 that it was time to bring in a "more thoughtful quarterback." Target felt it needed a partner to help align its messaging and approach across channels, he said. Before that, the company had relied on a group of boutique shops, such as Peterson Milla Hooks, and Mr. Francis appears to be using that approach at JC Penney, which just split with agency of record Saatchi & Saatchi.

The parting with Target leaves Wieden open in the retail category and hungry to replace any revenue lost. Some industry observers are already speculating that Wieden will follow Mr. Francis to JC Penney. But that would mean the agency's once again having just a piece of the pie, and at a slightly smaller marketer.

Read the full story behind theTarget and W+K split on

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